Casa Colon

I’ve been able to go ashore a couple of times this hitch. It’s just so nice to be able to get off, walk around, see something different, maybe have a nice snack. Try the local flavors. I love to explore, I live to travel! It’s one of the main reasons I chose to go to sea as a career. I don’t get around anywhere near as much as I’d like to, so I take every opportunity to go out as I can. 

I’ve never been to Las Palmas, or Grand Canary before. We did stop at La Gomera (one of the other islands) for a week or so and a short stop on Tenerife when I was on the sailing ship in high school. I remember the small town, white washed houses and hiking through the dry, rocky hills to go swimming at the beach. 

Las Palmas is nothing like that. 😉

I love looking at beautiful old architecture and the old part of the city- Vegueta– has plenty of it. The cathedral was one great old building, another was the Casa Colon. The house of Columbus. They didn’t open ’til 10, so we (me and my local friend Josito) went to look around a couple of old churches, wander the neighborhood peeking into courtyards, and had a snack. It was still early when we were allowed entrance (4 euros) to the restored house/museum. We were practically the only ones there for the first hour. 

After that, the tour groups started arriving and in the small rooms of the house, it got quite crowded and noisy. The place impressed me. Not only the rooms full of interesting articles, but the house itself.

I especially loved the intricately carved designs of the wooden ceilings. I’m pretty sure they must be modern replacements, but I wonder if they’re copied from the original? I tried to ask at the museum, but no one there spoke English well enough to answer my questions. I’ve since sent an email, but no response yet.

I also wondered about the exterior doors. They’re surrounded by a thick stone mantle, carved with all sorts of decorative motifs including 2 large upright dogs. There are priests and centaurs, I saw a mermaid and a cow. I wonder what, if any, the significance is? I assume the large dogs (I think they’re dogs) represent the Canaries (canis is Latin for dog- canine is English). I’m just guessing though. They’re posted at either side of the entrance along with the shield of arms.

Inside, the house is typically Latin. Two stories surrounding an open courtyard filled with gardens, fountains and a couple of brightly colored macaws that freely wander around the place. We were warned, don’t get too close, they bite.

The recommended route through the house starts with a replica of Columbus’s ship. Wooden masts, blocks hanging from the rigging and barrels line the bulwarks. Steps lead up to the master’s cabin where he’d have slept and kept his charts.

From there, you enter a long room with models of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. The ceiling is covered with the zodiac and the walls hung with flags. Continue on and there are documents (copies) from the times of his voyages of discovery including his logs, letters he wrote to Queen Isabella, important treaties like the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the world between Spain and Portugal.

Charts showing each of his voyages are hung on the walls. I didn’t realize he did so much exploration. All I remember from school was his discovery of the islands of the Caribbean. I know he went to Hispaniola only because I was there and saw monuments to that effect. He actually spent many years exploring the “New World” before retiring.

The ground floor continues on with the theme of exploration, showing the trade from the Canary Islands and the Americas. The people of the Canaries wound up in some places I wouldn’t have expected. Texas, Louisiana and Florida for example (tho I’m not sure how much I trust their figures since their map shows Louisiana up about where Missouri would be).

Further on, a couple of rooms full of antique nautical instruments (astrolabe, quarterstaff, compass, etc) and historical charts from the age of discovery complete the first floor.

The second floor is full of paintings (mostly oil) from the 16th to the 20th centuries. A lot of them (especially the earlier ones) are of religious subjects. The later ones are mostly portraits, but a couple of nice landscapes are there. I’ve never heard of any of the artists, but that doesn’t mean anything. They’re very good. I especially liked the “Bather” and the landscape with a tree.

Then we focus on the Canary Islands, theres a room with models and maps. There’s a model of the original fort that formed the foundation of today’s city of Las Palmas. Another one of the Castle de la Luz. It’s still there, you pass by the ruins in the surf on the way in from the airport. A model of Grand Canary shows the volcanic origin of the island.

My ship is docked at the end of the long pier off the peninsula

In the basement- the “crypt”, the focus is all on the New World. The cultures of the Amazon, Ecuador and Mexico. There are cases full of ceramics and all kinds of small objects. Careful not to step on the graves (I couldn’t read the Latin-or old Spanish- to figure out who was in there), we passed through fairly quickly and back up to the courtyard.

The macaws were entertaining a group of local school kids, so we decided to head on out. I needed to pick up a few things before heading back to the ship to get some rest before going on watch for the night, so we headed up Triana street. It’s a famous shopping street. Pedestrian only, hung with baskets of brightly colored flowers, benches along the way, occasional musicians busking the people meandering through.

It was easy enough to catch a cab back, and only about 11 euros. I spent 9 for a bag full of snacks to last the rest of the hitch. I love all the history here, but maybe next time I go ashore I’ll look for something different. 😉

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